Category Archives: Global news & issues

Chinese domain name scam

cnThe “Chinese domain name scam” is a common problem for site owners. Typically the emails pretend to be from a company in China that registers domain names (web site addresses). They write to inform you that someone in China wishes to register the name of your company with a .cn (China) extension.

This can make some domain name owners pretty angry and frustrated because they think they already own the name. The truth is that you have registered for the first part of the name, and probably one or two extensions like .com or .ca if you live in Canada. But there are hundreds of other possible extensions for your domain name – among them .org, .net, .info, .biz, .us, .tv – with dozens more being approved all the time.

A list of domain name extensions can be found on Wikipedia at

It would be impossible for you to register all of them. In fact, unless you’re a resident of a country, most countries will not allow you to register a domain name with their country extension. For example, if you’re not a resident of Canada, you can’t register a .ca extension.

However, the point of the email scam is not really to involve you in the domain name dispute. Rather it is a starting point for drawing you into fraudulent activity by getting you to reply.

Do not answer any emails asking you to buy another version of your domain name. If you reply, you will confirm your email is live, and any information you provide – such as your name and contact information – can be sold. At some point, you may be sent an invoice to purchase the .cn version. If you do buy the name, you will never see your money again. If you complain, you may receive increasingly aggressive responses.

For more information and to report these sorts of nuisance communications, please see:

7 things to try when you can’t connect to your website

not-foundYou finally have time to login to your WordPress site and update it. You need to add new photos or promote an important event. But you can’t connect to your site! What can you do? Keep this list on hand for future reference.

1. First, refresh your browser a couple of times. Look for a small circular arrow or a double-headed arrow located near the address bar of your browser. Click it a few times (wait for your site to load between refreshes) to make sure you have the latest version of your site and an updated connection to your site.

2. If your site still doesn’t come up after refreshing, do a Google search on a topic you’re never searched before. No connection? The problem is with your Internet connection. Check your connections or contact your provider, Shaw, Telus or other company.

3. If you don’t have problems connecting to other sites, go to and enter your web address. This will tell you if your own site is the only one that’s down, or if everyone sharing your server is down.

4. For more detailed information on whether your server is down, try for Bluehost or for GoDaddy — (replace the host name with your own host). This site provides an automated graph of server connections at Bluehost during the past 24 hours.

5. If you’re hosting with Bluehost or through our managed hosting on Bluehost, check their Twitter feed at (You don’t need a Twitter account to do this.) Scan the top 10 or 20 comments to find out what Bluehost is saying to other people.

6. Try again in half an hour. Rarely do you need to wait more than a few minutes, or, in extreme cases, half an hour.

7. Many connections issues are caused by problems somewhere along the line between your server and your home. The connection from the computer in your home or office to a server has multiple connection points. Read more about Denial of Service attacks, which account for most server and Internet downtime over the past few months. This is a chronic and rapidly increasing area of concern for website owners everywhere.

Last but not least, welcome to the job of web site development. If you have a WordPress site and if you’re responsible for updating it, you’ve joined website developers everywhere in a common problem — occasional server disconnections.

Who’s attacking your website?

Areas of the world experiencing Denial of Service attacks at the time of this posting, August 26, 2013

Areas of the world under attack at the time of this posting, August 26, 2013

Some of our clients have been experiencing problems connecting to their WordPress sites in recent months. This is an ongoing problem for us because we want to feel confident about the hosts and servers we recommend. If your site is not available when you want it to be, it can be very frustrating.

Connection problems can happen at many points between your computer and the host computer. The biggest problem however are DDoS attacks, or Denial of Service attacks. You can view a real-time map showing attacks currently underway across the globe at (then click the “Attacks” button to reveal areas currently under attack).

Denial of Service happens when a server receives thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of “fake” connection requests simultaneously. These situations are caused by people who deliberately attack servers through tools like botnets. As a result, the servers are overwhelmed and cannot deliver your website files to you.

One recent analysis revealed the origin of attacks as China (39.08 % of attacks), Mexico (27.32 %), Russia (7.58 %), Korea (7.29 %) and France (6.50 %). Another source claims China 41%, followed by Mexico, Germany and Iran. Several weeks ago, we experienced a Friday morning when almost a third of servers in North America were affected at the same time.

The origin of the attacks shifts constantly and Denial of Service attacks grow more and more complex in scope. It is the largest issue currently facing the Internet today. It particularly affects countries like the United States that have extensive network infrastructures, and particularly the West Coast of North America. These areas are typically more susceptible to being selected as targets by malicious groups who seek the unauthorized use and abuse of those network resources.

Why do people launch these attacks? The people behind them include crime gangs, extortion groups, groups disguising other crimes, hacker groups, vandals and mischief makers. One type of attack, known as cyber “hacktivism”, involves attacks by people against certain banks, ecommerce and government sites and corporate sites just because the sites don’t serve their political, religious or ideological values.

Websites may be remembered one day as a luxury of the early 21st century. Denial of Service has been described as an “arms race” between the hackers and the companies trying to solve the issues.


Copyright and websites: What you don’t know can bite you

Websites have interesting copyright issues. Many people mistakenly believe that once they have paid for a website, they own it. Be sure to understand your rights as a website owner, and the rights owned by the website developer, photographer, videographer, the SEO company or the marketer that you hire.

If your website is on a site builder like WIX, OtherPeople’s Pixels, Blogger or, that company owns the copyrights for the design of your site, the plugins and other functional features, and all coding behind the site. They can terminate or remove your site from their server at any time without providing a reason.

If you purchase or download a template/theme/design for a website, the original developer of the template owns the copyright. You are simply purchasing a license to use their design. Check to see the conditions of use.

If you purchase stock photos for your site, you are purchasing only a license for use. You do not own the copyright to the photos. Check the licensing agreements for the terms of use. For example, you may be able to use the photos for a website but not for printed material like advertising.

You need a logo that can be sized up or down, used on websites and in print. If you have a logo designed for you, the designer owns the copyright to the logo. Before hiring a logo designer, check the cost of obtaining the original vector image or at least a variety of high-resolution images for use in different situations.

If your website designer/developer took the photos for your site, he or she owns the copyright to the photos. They cannot be used by you for print media, business cards or any other purpose, without the designer’s permission. They cannot be used by a different designer on another site without the previous designer’s permission.

If you have a custom site built, the developer/designer owns the copyright to the site design. If another developer, SEO expert or marketing person subsequently takes over the site and adds content or additional features to the site, they cannot change or replace the designer’s name in the footer.

If you have a custom site built, the developer/designer also owns the moral rights to the site. This means they can protect the aesthetics of their design by objecting to any changes you make to it. If you change images in a slider, for example, the new images must match the look and feel of the previous slides, and not affect the integrity of the design.

If you have a custom site built, neither the design nor the coding can be used on another site without the original designer’s permission. People with WordPress sites need to understand they can change the content, but not the design.

If you have a custom site built, the developer/programmer also owns the rights to the style sheets and other code that affects the site functionality. You cannot use their code on another site.

Because the site designer/developer owns the copyright to the site, designers can make as many sites as they like using the same design and coding. Be sure to check with your developer if your design will be original and used only for your own site.


Copyright issues in web design

When a website design is copied

How to pursue website copyright infringement

Pros and cons of cloud computing

There’s a lot of pressure today on businesses to adopt cloud hosting for both daily office work and websites. Cloud computing means that instead of knowing exactly where your software, documents and website files are located – on a server in a building on a street in Burnaby, for example, or in Utah or Ontario – your files are distributed and accessed from computers spread around the globe.

Cloud computing is heavily marketed for the following benefits. Companies can reduce their capital costs on hardware, software and licensing fees, and owners of large corporate websites may experience faster access and streaming of their content. The financial model for web hosting shifts from a static annual or monthly charge to a pay-by-use model. The cost of software and complications of local area networks are handled by the cloud host’s data centres, rather than your company’s IT people. Cloud computing offers expanded opportunities for wireless computing: because all applications and documents are globally distributed, they can be accessed from anywhere in the world that has wireless access.

But I have a lot of concerns about cloud hosting and I’m not alone. In August, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak expressed his own concerns about cloud hosting. This is from an industry leader whose own company has been one of the most prominent in the promotion of cloud computing. And many people agree with him.

With a static server, we know where your web files are stored. There is a physical location and address. With cloud hosting, some files could be on a server in England, some in Bangladesh, some in China – wherever server space and bandwidth is available at that split second.

Cloud-hosted companies assume a greater risk as a result of the many additional resources and connections required. When data is stored on multiple servers, often spanning several countries, issues quickly arise when any particular data centre is compromised. There are also issues around standardization, since there are no proper international standards for cloud technologies at this time.

There are also — and most importantly — huge security issues. Some of our clients express concern about the Privacy Act and hosting on an American server, but cloud computing is much worse. You really have no control over your files – they could be anywhere, including most third-world countries. The development of cloud computing resources in third world countries is increasingly encouraged and supported by large Western corporations. In return, there is an exponential increase in the number of people with permission to access the passwords and firewalls, and an increase in opportunities for hackers.

A good summary of the security issues is provided by Kurt Johnson in his article, Cloud Computing Hides Big Issues in Corporate Data Sharing on

Long before cloud computing, companies were sharing vital information with customers, partners, vendors, and contractors to make business processes run more efficiently and economically. They started with Web commerce, then moved into mobile applications and social networking. Each new information-sharing program opened up another hole in the corporate information security armor.

Cloud computing is another step on the continuum, and it also raises the stakes. Hosting vital data and applications on a cloud provider’s infrastructure puts vital information outside the corporate wall. Even more importantly, it creates a new set of users who have full access privileges to your data and applications — namely the cloud service administrators.

Too often, without realizing it, they rely on nothing more than trust to keep their data safe. They trust that the right people have the right access to vital information and will use it for the right things, yet they don’t really know who they’re trusting because they don’t know who all of those users are. Their service provider tells them to trust that they are managing user access effectively. Trust, in this context, is a flimsy defense.

Read more:

To Cloud or Not to Cloud – Pros and Cons

The Cloud and Africa: Indicators for the Growth of Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing: The Business Persepctive – PDF

Cloud Computing Pros and Cons

Cloud Computing Pros and Cons for Small Biz

Crowd-sourcing a logo with 99 designs is a crowdsourcing site for graphic design. Crowdsourcing means that designers across the globe compete for the winning design. In the process you receive dozens and possibly hundreds of designs. Several of our clients have been very successful securing a logo through 99designs, so we decided to try them ourselves.

You start by signing up for an account then answer questions about the style of logo you want. Visual examples as well as value scales are included. You can write a description of the logo you envision, and upload sample images. 99designs then asks you to choose the amount you want to pay. We decided to start with $299 and see how it went.

Each contest lasts 7 days. The first stage lasts 4 days or 96 hours. After receiving about 20 different logos in 24 hours, we were asked to “guarantee” the money to encourage more designers to participate. This meant we agreed to pay for at least one of the logos by the end of the contest, which definitely seemed fair.

Early samples of logo designs from

The designers who participated in our contest came from the east. The majority were located between Bulgaria and Malaysia. Most submissions came in during the night while we were sleeping in Vancouver.

99designs encourages you to look at completed contests and to invite designers whose work you like. This was extra effort but very worthwhile. I opened about 40 contests and looked for designs I liked. Most contests in the $299 range had an average of 20 designers per contest, with an average of 60 designs each.

When I saw a design I liked, I linked to the artist’s portfolio to see if I liked the other designs. In all, I contacted 31 designers and asked them to look at our project. About 15 people I did not contact also supplied designs. We felt I substantially increased the odds of getting a good design by inviting people, rather than leaving the contest to chance. $299 is at the low end of the scale for a logo design.

You can rate each design with one to five stars, but can chnge your ratings any time. I found this useful for organizing our favourites. You can also write the designer directly about each design, and give feedback or ask for small changes.

I had described us as a website development company in Kitsilano interested in symbols to do with computers, the ocean, mountains and/or trees. There were strong cultural differences in subject matter. Designs came in with palm trees, tropical sunsets and Caribbean-coloured oceans. Most of the mountains were very pointy, like volcanoes or the Himalayans. If I did it again, I would provide mainly visual samples instead of text.

Samples of final entries from among the 320 submitted

We were amazed and astounded by the talent of the participants. When you work with one designer, you might go through 10 or 20 variations before the designer gets fatigue. By crowdsourcing the logo, more than 25 designers were able to participate and to bounce off each other’s work. (Although this was a bit of a calamity when one of them would use the wrong colour scheme or a palm tree and others would copy it.)

At the end of 4 days, we had 198 entries from 25 designers – more than twice what we had anticipated. We chose 6 finalists (who together had created about half of the entries). We also chose 6 designs and posted voting contests on Facebook to get feedback from other people.

During the final three days, the 6 finalists continued to produce variations on their ideas. At this point the designs became quite similar. We ended up with 320 designs, and eventually chose one that had been created early in the contest. You can see the winning logo at the top of this page and a white version of it in the footer below. It was an excellent experience and I highly recommend 99designs if you’re looking for a logo.

CAPTCHA-solving sweatshops

I get pretty bristly when I think about people being paid to make annoying stupid and illiterate comments on blogs. They do this in the hope you will approve their comments, which will give them a link from your site to theirs.

Most comments are not sent to your site by individuals, however. They arrive as a result of automated spambots. A company selling Viagra, for example, might write a general comment that can be sent to any site, such as, “I love your site so much, you are the best writer”. Somewhere in the comment there will also be a link to a site selling Viagra. If you approve the comment, which many people do because they are flattered and don’t notice the link, they now have a link from your site to theirs, which helps increase their page rank in Google. (Many people don’t even approve their comments. Their WordPress sites are left open to accept unapproved comments from anyone.)

However, before that comment can be submitted to you, the sender of the comment has to read and re-type the CAPTCHA code – that series of squiggly letters and numbers just above the “Submit” button. Since most comment spam is automated, and since automated spambots cannot read or re-type CAPTCHA codes, these companies use the services of other companies who hire real humans to decipher CAPTCHA codes. Once they have deciphered the code on your site, your site becomes one of thousands that can be re-sold in packets.

All over the world, especially in India, Malaysia, China and Russia, there are tens of thousands of non-English speaking workers hired for a pennies a day to decipher the CAPTCHA codes on WordPress comment forms.

With the going rate ranging from 80 cents to $1.20 for each 1,000 deciphered CAPTCHAs, a really fast worker can make $2 to $3 a day. Imagine deciphering 1,000 CAPTCHAs in one day, then doing it again for the next 365 days. International CAPTCHA-solving teams are effectively sweatshop labor, where people — especially young children — will just sit and be given these images to solve and will type them in all day.

In India, major CAPTCHA-solving companies openly advertise that they can crack CAPTCHA codes. They sell their services in turn to companies selling not only drugs like Viagra but search engine optimization (SEO) sites, sites selling vitamins, cosmetics and shoes, and hundreds of other types of businesses who can profit from getting their web link on your site.

Typical newspaper ads in India read:

I have 40 PCs and 55 Persons working in my office for data entry work. As 1 person can do 800 captcha entry per hour. We can deliver you good quantity with quality

Hello Sir, I will kindly introduce myself.. This is Shivakumar. We have a team to type capcthas 24/7 and we can type more than 200k captchas per day


In Bangladesh at this very minute, a team of international workers is actively soliciting deals for breaking Craigslist, Gmail, Yahoo, MySpace, YouTube and Facebook’s CAPTCHA scripts, promising to deliver 250k solved CAPTCHAs per day on a “$2 for a 1000 solved CAPTCHAs” basis.

It’s a losing battle for the well-intentioned WordPress sites of the world. The only protection is to ensure you have checked off “Administrator must always approve comments” under Discussion in your General Settings. Then check your Comments regularly and immediately delete any spam comments that appear.


Should Canadian companies use Canadian hosts?

Should the host for your website or blog be geographically located in Canada? A lot of people believe this is essential but it’s not. In fact, it may work against you.

This short article describes some factors to consider if you’re looking for information about having a .ca domain name, wondering about the effectiveness of a .ca name for reaching Canadian consumers, wishing to support Canadian companies, or have privacy concerns.

Hosting is not the same thing as having a .ca name
Hosting has nothing to do with having a .ca name. You can register for a .ca name but still host outside Canada.

Having a .ca domain name is a good idea if:
• you have a service or company of interest mainly to people in Canada
• you provide services or products where Canadian branding is important
• you are not very interested in providing services outside Canada
• you have a strong reason why you want people to know your company is in Canada

You must register for a .ca name with a company in Canada that has been licensed to sell .ca names by CIRA. You must have a Canadian street address and phone. But you don’t need to host with the same company, and it may be preferable not to host in Canada.

Search engine optimization and .ca names
If you have reason to believe the majority of your market uses a Canadian search engine like, then having a .ca address may help your site come up on Canadian search engine results above sites outside Canada.

Be aware this also depends on how well your search engine optimization has been done. Proper search engine optimization using key words like Canada, Canadian, British Columbia, BC, Vancouver (or any other Canadian city) will result in similar rankings without having a .ca name. The .ca name alone is usually not sufficient.

Factors to consider when choosing a host
A host is a company that owns servers (computers) where your website files are stored. The choice of a host should be made on factors like the quality of their servers and their position on the Internet.

The majority of requests to servers in Canada are routed through the States and back again. You should think about the geographic location of your target market, and choose a host geographically located close to both your target market and the Internet backbone. A server’s proximity or “hops” to the internet backbone are equally important. A low number of hops ensures fast and efficient connections between your visitor’s computer and your server’s location.







The image above was taken from a traceroute program that connected a computer in Vancouver, BC to a host called Netfirms in Ontario. If your target market is in Vancouver BC and you host with Netfirms, your target market would have to make 15 Internet hops to reach their server (and 15 more for the files to be sent back to them). Conversely, if your clients are in BC, we can offer them a local server based in Vancouver.

Canadian hosts are not necessarily located in Canada
Many people host with companies because they advertise as Canadian companies, and people want to support businesses located in Canada. Canadian hosting companies, however, do not usually use servers in Canada. Most Canadian host companies use servers located outside Canada, usually in the UK or the States.

Popular hosts like (Arizona), Justhost (Utah), Hostmonster (Utah) and Fat Cow (Massachusetts) spend vast amounts of money promoting themselves as Canadian web hosts but in fact their servers are geographically located in the United States, as your own files will be as well.

In addition, many Canadian hosting companies outsource their support services to other countries. So signing up for a Canadian host because they advertise “superior Canadian service” really may not be to your advantage, because the representatives may actually be in foreign countries.

We regularly see companies charge insane amounts of money for plans they call “Gold”, “Platinum”, “Advanced” or other names assigned to a “level” of service. We frequently see Canadian companies charging more than $40/month for service that should cost less than $7/month, and there is no practical reason for it.

Concerns about the Patriot Act
Many people express concerns about the Patriot Act and its implications for the content on their websites. But if the pages of your website are public, the information is available to everyone anyways. If the information on your site is private, such as information stored in a database, only citizens of the US are subject to the Patriot Act. Neither citizens of the US nor hosts in the US are required by law to give up usernames and passwords.

Concerns about privacy
People who are concerned about hosting in Canada for reasons of “privacy” on the Internet often do not realize the amount of information that is already accessible about them on servers spread across the States.

Most people use online services that store enormous amounts of history about their activities. The information you post on your Facebook account, Linked in, Twitter or any of the hundreds of other social media accounts is stored on servers in the States. It is accessed and used by companies you’ll never know about.

If you use Google docs, Flickr or Youtube, your content is on American servers. If you use Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo mail, copies of all of your emails are being stored on US servers. Credit card information for multinational corporations is routinely stored on US servers. Every time you register software or other online product, you are likely registering it on a US server. Web analytics tools like Google Analytics store your visitor information on US servers. If you belong to a professional organization, like the Kitsilano Chamber of Commerce, your membership information and event photos are likely stored on a US server (in their case, Texas). By comparison, the information on most websites is pretty innocent and, by nature, in the public domain already. 

In summary, small companies and individuals should be more concerned about the quality and qualifications of the host’s servers, getting good value for their money (shared hosting for $9.95/month or less, with no limitations on storage or bandwidth), and the host’s geographic proximity to Internet hubs.

Facebook facts March 2012

Map of Facebook usage world-wide in late 2010. The numbers have almost doubled since that time.

1 in every 13 people on earth is on Facebook

1 out of 5 views of all web pages is a Facebook page.

51% of Canadians are on Facebook.

71% of American are on Facebook

70% of Facebook users are from outside the United States

The majority of all content on Facebook is created by only 20% of all Facebook users.

Facebook plays a role in 1 out of 5 divorces.

The average Facebook  user has 130 friends

One in 10 pets had its own Facebook page by July last year.

A Facebook link is added to 10,000 new websites every day.

Facebook can be more addictive than cigarettes or alcohol

With over 800 million users, Facebook is the third largest country in the world.

The Facebook population is three times that of the United States.

Facebook is a prime target for cybercrime.


You can be #1 on Google – Myth #2


Maybe. A very, very, very remote maybe. And it is definitely not something that anyone can promise you. Here’s how it works.

If someone types a search term into Google and if a match for that term is found on your site, Google will continue to scan your site and evaluate more than 200 factors in less than a second.

These factors can include:
– who links to you
– what their status is (ie if a university or bank links to your site, their link will be more valuable than a link from a small company site)
– who you link to and how relevant their own content is to your content
– how long your site has been online
if it has been sufficiently optimized with meta data for search engines during the entire time it has been online
– how much traffic your site gets compared to other sites with the same search term
– if your content contains a complex enough mix of key words and phrases
– if you have at least 250 words of content on each page, the text is not repeated elsewhere, and the phrasing is original
– if your content is completely original and can’t be found on any other site (Google can tell in a split second)
– if your site has a large number of pages with a mix of information, pictures and tables (Google likes a mix)
– if the search phrase is used a sufficient number of times throughout your website but not TOO many times
– if Google can find verification codes, xml sitemaps and analytics for your site (these are missing on most sites, which will give you an advantage if they’re done right)

And these are only 12 of 200 other factors that Google weighs in relation to the content of your site. Many are unknown and never revealed. It’s even more staggering to think that this happens in less than a second.

While Google is forming an impression of your site, they are simultaneously scanning hundreds of thousands of other sites containing the same search term for the same 200 factors – and deciding where you fit in comparison to the other sites.

Their findings are further filtered through the searcher’s geographic location. Companies with sites closest to the visitor will be displayed first. The findings are also filtered by the searcher’s own previous searches, site visits and the sites their friends and coworkers have visited (the latter depending on the masses of history Google has been collecting about their online activities for years).

Finally you have your ranking in the list. Will you come up on page one if you are high in the ranking? Probably not… the first page of Google results only has 15 places. The first 3-10 are usually a combination of paid ads and Google Places listings. Which means that the chances of your site showing in the remaining spaces on the first page – called “organic” results – were just cut in half for most search terms.

Companies that guarantee results on page 1 of Google generally use link-mining methods that Google does not approve of. “Guaranteed SEO” people sell monthly accounts. You pay them to create hundreds of back links to your site every month (link farming), which can sometimes work to temporarily put you on page 1. But Google will gradually drop your site in their ranking – or remove it – and the back links will have to be re-submitted. Which means you’ll be paying for the same work over and over.

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